Three police officers from Bay Ridge’s 68th Precinct received awards from both the State and City of New York on Tuesday for their assistance in evacuating and sheltering school children during February’s deadly attack by a U-Haul driver.
Officers Francis Ingebrethsen and Hector Santini, along with Lieutenant John Vitale, stood with state Senator Andrew Gounardes, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Council Member Justin Brannan in a ceremony at Bay Ridge Preparatory School on 4th Avenue to commemorate their actions.
“These students, their families and our entire community here in southern Brooklyn will be forever grateful for the heroic and quick actions of Lieutenant Vitale and Officers Ingebrethsen and Santini,” Gounardes said.
The senator presented each officer with a proclamation from the State of New York, and Public Advocate Williams and Councilmember Brannan gave them certificates from the City of New York for their service during the deadly rampage.
The public officials recounted the tragic event, emphasizing the officers’ critical roles in keeping the school’s students safe despite the nearby danger.
On the morning of February 13, students at Bay Ridge Prep were outside at recess on the open street outside the school. At the same time, less than two miles away, suspect Weng Sor allegedly began his attack — driving a U-Haul truck through southern Brooklyn, purposefully targeting pedestrians and cyclists at random.
The three officers realized the Bay Ridge Prep students could easily become a target for the rampaging driver and rushed to the school to alert staff to shelter the children inside.
Eight pedestrians in total were struck by the driver, and one was killed, but thanks to the officers’ quick thinking, none of the students were harmed.
“I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to Officers Francis Ingebrethsen and Hector Santini, and Lieutenant John Vitale for their selfless dedication to keeping our community safe,” said Charles Fasano, Head of School at Bay Ridge Prep.
At a vigil for the victims of the attack last month, politicians and Bay Ridgeites called for enhanced measures against traffic violence, as well as more mental health resources for struggling New Yorkers. Law enforcement officers said they believed the suspect, Sor, may have had a death wish when he began his attack.
“Public safety is paramount, and the actions taken by officers of the 68th precinct to protect students at Bay Ridge Prep serve as a shining example of what that should look like in our city,” said Brannan.”That instant recall and split-second decision to get to and protect our kids is only possible thanks to local policing that is truly responsive and engaged with the community. We owe the men and women of the 68th precinct a great deal of gratitude, and I want to thank them all personally for keeping us safe on our worst and best days.”